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Sunday, November 28, 2010
Wine tasting parties are the perfect excuse to get a group of friends together to explore new wines. They’re easy to plan and even easier to host. We’ve put together a quick wine tasting party plan for you to put into action.
Pick a theme
First things first, your party needs a theme. Nailing down a theme will help you to choose the wines and food for the evening.
A few of our favourite themes are -
- Favourite wine region of the world (for example Bordeaux, Margaret River, Napa Valley or Tuscany)
- Old World vs New World wines
- Favourite wines under $15 a bottle
Once you’ve settled on your theme you can turn your attention to the actual wine. If your theme is “Bottles under $15” it’s pretty simple for your guests to supply a bottle for tasting. If you’d prefer to assemble the wines yourself, asking your guests to contribute $10 - $15 per head will allow you to get a good range of different wines to try. 4 - 6 different wines is a great number for a tasting.
If you want to incorporate a bit of a competition into your night, a blind tasting is a lot of fun. Hand out tasting notes to your guests that list the description of each wine, taken from the bottle’s label. Cover all the bottles with a brown paper bag and mark each with a number. Ask your guests to match the wines with the descriptions listed on the tasting card. The person with the most number of correct matches is the winner.
Writing it down
Give your guests a tasting note sheet so they can write down their thoughts about each wine. The more knowledgeable you are about wines, the more detailed you’ll want to be (for example you can include info about tannins, body and complexity etc) but if you’re just starting out the following will do nicely.
Ask your guests to note their observations of:
• The colour and intensity of the wine
• The aroma (what could they smell?)
• The flavours (what could they taste?)
• Personal opinion. Did they enjoy it? If they didn’t like it, why not?
• Their score (if you’re scoring each wine)
How to taste the wines
The act of wine tasting may seem a little silly but we do all the sloshing and slurping for very specific reasons. If your or your guests have never been to a tasting before, here’s what you do:
- Pour a small amount of wine into each glass
- Tilt the glass 45˚. Have a look at the colour and make a note of it.
- Ask everyone to swirl their glass to aerate the wine and take a big sniff. Ask your guests to write down the aromas that they notice.
- Get a feel for the body, flavours and balance of the wine by taking a small sip. Let the wine lie on your tongue for a few seconds. You can aerate the wine by sloshing or swishing it in your mouth (this also helps to release flavours). Swallow the wine or spit into a bucket. Write down the flavours you tasted.
A little bit about food and palate cleansers
The type of food you serve on the night is going to depend on the type of wines you’re sampling. Remember, different food will greatly influence how guests taste a wine so plan your menu carefully. Finger foods or tapas style nibbles tend to work well. Aim to serve heavier dishes at the end of the night.
You should offer your guests a palate cleanser in between each tasting. Traditionally, a palate cleanser is used to neutralises the taste buds in preparation for the next wine. You can use any of the following to cleanse the palate:
- plain bread
- plain crackers
- water or sparkling water
- lightly brewed green tea
- a sprig of parsley
- a small amount of lemon/lime or mint sorbet
Important things to remember
- Serve each bottle of wine at the correct temperature. Tastings will be off if a white wine isn’t chilled correctly or a red wine isn’t decanted.
- Use the correct glasses for each different wine. If you’re serving one varietal, one glass per person is fine but if you’re serving a few different types of wine you’ll need the appropriate stemware for each.
- Keep water on hand to keep your guests hydrated and to cleanse the palate.
- Look out for your guests and never let anyone drink and drive.